Thursday, October 22, 2009

Weight Loss: Is it realistic?

This is directed toward those with minor weight gain, but still within safe weight and body mass indicators, not those with severe weight problems that may require more drastic measures such as surgery or a medically supervised weight loss program.

After years of battling weight gain issues, this is what I have concluded:

There is no secret to weight loss, no magic pill, or potion, no other legitimate way other than to eat less and exercise more. Calories in, calories out. It's as simple as that.  However, there are things you can do to make the journey to a slimmer you easier.
  • It takes 3,500 calories to make a pound.  Every 3,500 calories you take in that you don't burn off adds another pound of weight to your body.  To lose weight, you need to either eat an average 500 fewer calories per day or burn 500 more calories through exercise, or a combination of both.  
  • You don't have to give up the foods you love; all things in moderation. You can still eat at your favorite fast food place.  The key is moderation. Don't load up on the extras.  Super-sizing is a no-no.  After you have determined your calorie needs, then look at the nutrition charts for each restaurant.  Many fast food restaurants have this information on-line. Just google the restaurant name and the word "nutrition", and it should take you to that area of the web site.  Armed with this information, you can choose something that fits your new lifestyle.  We don't call it a diet here.
  • Eating 5 or 6 smaller meals throughout the day will keep your body fueled with energy and help fight hunger.  
  • Make sure you eat enough food.  You've heard all your life that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  This is true. If you skip breakfast your body will go into starvation mode.   If you don't eat enough, your body thinks it is starving and will start to consume muscle for energy instead of fat.  Your muscle mass is key to burning calories.  Use this muscle for energy and your metabolism will slow down, you may stop losing weight, or even gain weight.  This can happen in as few as 3 days of extremely low calorie intake.  In other words, you can sabotage your weight loss program by eating too little.
  • Drink plenty of water.  Some experts recommend 8 glasses per day.  This will also help keep your metabolism on an even keel.
  • Exercise.  There are countless sources touting their exercise plans and as many guidelines as to how much, and how often to exercise.  One thing to keep in mind when creating your own exercise routine is to keep it balanced.  There are 3 major types of exercise:  Cardio, such as cycling or aerobics, or even just walking, which increases the heart rate and burns fat.  Strength training (using weights or other forms of resistance), which helps strengthen, tone and build muscle mass.  Flexibility and core training such as yoga and pilates to keep you limber and reduce the chance of injury while performing everyday tasks.  A well-rounded exercise program should incorporate each of these types of exercise.
I advocate neither the "ultra-thin, size 2 or else look" nor the "there's just more of me to love" look.  It is all about finding your healthy weight, and learning how to maintain it. 

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